Suspended 367 feet above the ground at the end of the roller coaster’s top, I held my breath as the car rolled over the edge.
With the Spanish sun blazing as I looked down, the thrill seekers below now as tiny as ants, I swallowed.
Suddenly we drop to 112 mph, returning to the mouth of the tunnel that originally spat at us – the sound of a Ferrari engine roaring in the background.
I was at PortAventura World on the Costa Daurada, and aboard the Ferrari-themed Red Force roller coaster, the fastest of its kind in Europe.
Just an hour’s drive from Barcelona Airport, this huge theme park attracts hundreds of British families to the famous seaside resort of Salou every year.
It’s easy to spend weeks here, with its themed lands filled with enough adrenaline-charged attractions to give Walt Disney a run for its money, as well as restaurants, shows, and parades.
Boarding a taxi we head south to the port of Ametlla de Mar. From there you can take a catamaran to the Balfego bluefin tuna ponds, home to hundreds of brilliant fish.
A guided tour allows visitors to swim with them and taste tuna in its most natural form, the shashimi style.
Equipped with snorkels, we got into the water.
Some fish here weigh 600kg, our guide told us. Plunging our heads into the sea, we watched in wonder schools of huge tuna, over two meters long, swimming beneath us, their scaly flesh catching the light.
But it’s not just tuna that is raised here. Just down the road is the Ebro Delta region, famous for its fatty mussels and oysters.
Located in the natural park and surrounded by salt marshes, coastal lagoons and seabirds, there is a mussel farm that tourists visit by boat.
Further inland and not far from the Costa Daurada are a series of vineyards belonging to the Carretera del Vi – a Mediterranean wine route that begins in Sitges and winds for 33 km to Sant Marti Sarroca.
Visit of the vineyard
The Esportec travel agency offers an unusual way to enjoy a guided tour of the vineyard, for € 75 pp. Hopping aboard your own Segway, you’ll pass rows of plump grapes and grassy landscapes, stopping at grand chateaux along the way, and ending the day with wine tasting in the cellars.
If you really love wine, it’s worth venturing to Acustic Celler in the historic town of Marca, sheltered from civilization on a lush hillside.
The 42 acres of sun-drenched vineyards and centuries-old olive trees are nothing short of extraordinary – their rich reds, pungent whites, and punchy pinks are also top notch.
Back on the Salou seafront, I saw in the distance a few paragliders and a group of children hovering in the air on flyboards, jets of water flowing under them as they flickered.
It’s a bit of a party spot here, although the place still feels family-friendly. Rows of lively bars, ice cream parlors, and seafood restaurants line a bustling promenade leading to a huge fountain.
The beachfront Arena restaurant serves tapas, including Andalusian-style calamari, duck cannelloni with truffles and cold cuts, all washed down with a superb local rioja.
We had settled in the Ohtels Villa Romana on the outskirts of town. This is a traditional Costa hotel, with palm-fringed gardens that contain the ruins of a Roman villa, as well as swimming pools and sun terraces.
After a day exploring the city, we returned in search of a live band that paid homage to The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Hands clapped and bodies swayed to the beat of the music as waiters served pitchers of sangria.
The Costa Daurada offers all the delicacies you would expect from a Spanish Costa, but go a few miles further and you will discover authentic local delicacies.
GO: Costa Dorada
COVID: You need proof of full vaccination or a negative PCR test done within 72 hours of arrival.
British double-bitten and under-18s do not need to self-isolate on their return, but must pass an antigen test before departure and a PCR test on the second day.
Adults who are vaccinated or have received a single shot should self-isolate for ten days, testing on days two and eight.
GETTING THERE : Ryanair flies daily from Stansted to Barcelona from £ 8 one way. See ryanair.com. Also flights from other UK airports.
STAY THERE: Seven nights all inclusive at Ohtels Villa Romana is from £ 734 for a twin room for two people. See ohtels.fr/fr
OUT AND ABOUT: Tickets for Portaventura World are € 51 per adult, € 45 for children under 11. Tickets for the park’s Ferrari Land cost an additional € 22 per adult, € 19 per junior / senior. See portaventuraworld.com.
Tuna tours cost from € 39 per person, including snorkel or snorkel gear and a sashimi tasting session and a drink. See tuna-tour.com.